Unilever unveils ambitious green targets

Global consumer goods giant Unilever has announced ambitious plans for its sustainable business, aiming to double sales while halving its environmental impact.

The company, whose goods include Dove, Knorr and Lipton, launched its Sustainability Plan yesterday (November 15) in London, Rotterdam, New Delhi and New York.

Among the aims are to help one billion people to improve their health and wellbeing and to source 1005 of its agricultural raw materials sustainably.

CEO Paul Polman said: “We have ambitious plans to grow the company. But growth at any price is not viable.

“We have to develop new ways of doing business which will ensure that our growth does not come at the expense of the world’s diminishing natural resources.”

The Sustainable Living Plan sets out over 50 social, economic and environmental targets. The aim is to halve the greenhouse gas emissions, water and waste used not just by the company in its direct operations, but also by its suppliers and consumers.

Over two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions and half the water used in Unilever products’ lifecycle come from consumer use, so this appears to be a major commitment .

Paul Polman said: “People tell us they want to reduce their environmental impact but find it hard to change their behaviour and don’t know how they can make a difference.

“By halving the total carbon, water and waste impact of our products, primarily through innovation in the way we source, make and package them, we can help people make a small difference every time they use them.

“As our products are used 2 billion times a day in nearly every country in the world, our consumers’ small actions add up to make a big difference.”

Unilever’s ambitions include plans to improve the livelihoods in developing countries by working with Oxfam, Rainforest Alliance and others to link over 500,000 smallholder farmers and small-scale distributors into its supply chain.

However, Paul Polman acknowledged that Unilever did not have all the answers and that the company would need to work in partnership with customers, suppliers, governments and NGOs if it was to achieve its goals.

Unilever pointed to their track record so far in sustainable business. Among their projects, they worked with the WWF to create the Marine Stewardship Council, the international certification body for sustainable fisheries.

They started a Sustainable Agriculture Initiative, working with farmers and suppliers to develop a set of sustainability indicators that over time became our Sustainable Agriculture Code.

In 2004 their ice-cream business worked with Greenpeace to develop ice-cream freezers using natural refrigerants instead of HFCs.

They hope to achieve their newly announced goals by or before 2020.

Alison Brown

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